Hurricane names, where do they come from? | Weather Wednesday

Weather Wednesday

To date, the 2021 hurricane season has produced 19 named storms. 2020 is the only other year to have had this many named storms by the end of September.

Each year, hurricanes are given names and if the primary naming list gets used up, then we have gone to the Greek alphabet to name any subsequent storms. This year will mark the first time that our secondary list is compromised of proper names, following the same alternating male/female pattern as the primary list.

There are 21 names on the list as we do not use the letters Q, U, X, Y, Z. 2020 had a record-setting number of storms, at 30 named storms.

A quick history lesson on names: Over one hundred years ago, scientists would use the names of saints to name hurricanes. Then, during the early 20th century through World War II, the practice of using only female names became widespread in weather map discussions among forecasters, especially Army and Navy meteorologists who plotted the movements of storms over the wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

The practice of naming hurricanes solely after women came to an end in 1978 when men’s and women’s names were included in the Eastern North Pacific storm lists. In 1979, male and female names were included in lists for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

The World Meteorological Organization is responsible for the naming of the storms, not the National Hurricane Center. There is a list of names for each year during a six-year cycle. Every six years, the list recycles and we use the same names again, unless, a storm is retired.

A storm is retired based on its devastation. Generally, a storm that is attributed to loss of life or huge infrastructure destruction will be considered. This process happens after hurricane season, but before the next season begins. It may take months before a storm is actually retired from the list.

One caveat is that there are several destructive storms that were never retired and that is because they occurred before the hurricane naming convention was established in 1950.

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